President Cyril Ramaphosa condemns Chad violence that led to president's death

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Chad's President Idriss Deby has died while visiting troops on the front line of a fight against northern rebels. (Marco LONGARI / AFP)
Chad's President Idriss Deby has died while visiting troops on the front line of a fight against northern rebels. (Marco LONGARI / AFP)
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has conveyed condolences after the death of Chad President Idriss Déby Itno.
  • Déby, who has been in power three decades, died in military violence a day after provisional election results showed that he has been elected for a sixth term.
  • The African Union has also issued a statement hailing the late president as an ardent supporter of efforts to create an environment of security and stability.

President Cyril Ramaphosa described the death of Chad President Idriss Déby Itno in military violence as "disturbing news", and expressed concern on behalf of the South African government about developments in that country.

He said Déby died "following injuries he sustained while leading his military forces to repel a rebel attack".

In a statement issued hours after Déby's death on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said he received the news with sadness and extended condolences to the government and people of Chad.

READ | Chad's president Deby: a long-

serving army ally in turbulent Sahel

Ramaphosa said the involvement of armed groups in the violence was a concern.

He added that an immediate cessation of violence was necessary.

Ramaphosa said:

We condemn in the strongest terms the violence that has claimed so many lives, including that of President Déby. We call for calm and a cessation of fighting.

Déby died a day after provisional election results that were published showed that he was elected for a sixth term in the 11 April elections, with 79.32 percent of the vote.

Some experts have questioned whether his death was a coup d'état.

The African Union, which has a policy of suspending states when there is an unconstitutional change of power, issued a statement on Tuesday night in which it conveyed condolences. 

"The late President Déby played a key role in promoting the African Union's agenda to promote peace and security and was an ardent supporter of the union's efforts to create an environment of security and stability, especially within the Sahel region," the statement read.

The AU "stands in solidarity with the government and people of the Republic of Chad during this difficult time and joins them in mourning the loss of a champion of Africa's endeavours to provide a peaceful, secure and stable continent".

AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, hails from Chad. 

Paul-Simon Handy, a senior advisor to the the Institute for Security Studies’ offices in Senegal and Ethiopia said the situation in Chad “has all the trappings of a palace coup”. 

He said: “My personal assessment is that this is definitely a coup. The death of a president does not justify the suspension of the constitution. There are provisions in the constitution to be followed for the death of a president.”

He said this was an unconstitutional transition and change of government, which would attract the attention of the AU. He said Chad was in the middle of an electoral process and the results had not yet been declared by the country’s electoral commission or confirmed by the constitutional court. 

“It’s still early days, but the way for the AU Commission to determine [that this was a coup] is to send a communication brief to the Peace and Security Council which will now take the decision whether to suspend or not to suspend.”

He said it was not unusual for the 68-year-old to go to the battlefield himself. He walked with his troops on the shores of Lake Chad after Boko Haram fighters launched a deadly attack on a Chadian army base a year ago.

“There is an irony as well, that he won an election but lost his life in the battlefield,” Handy said.

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